Culture-based Development for Ethnic Minorities in China

The Challenge

China has made enormous achievements in poverty reduction since economic reforms began back in 1978. While this success has lifted millions of ethnic minorities in poor regions out of poverty, progress among ethnic minorities still lags far behind national development standards. China’s 55 ethnic minorities have a combined population of 114 million, or 8.49 percent of the national total, and often live in remote rural areas where living conditions are harsh and where the terrain and climate are far from conducive to development. Consequently, of the government’s 592 national designated poor counties, 267 are areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. Ethnic minority women are also disproportionately disadvantaged, as members of minority groups and as women. This is severely inhibiting their ability to engage fully in society and leading to multifaceted exclusion. Ethnic minorities possess a rich and distinctive way of life set against a unique natural, social, cultural and historical backdrop. If properly preserved, managed and developed, these rich cultural resources can be used as a strong driver for local socio-economic development.

The Response

Working in accordance with national poverty reduction initiatives in ethnic minority areas, the programme aims to support government efforts to increase equality and alleviate poverty among ethnic minorities, and thereby contribute to the construction of a harmonious society in China. Drawing on international assistance, it has sought to improve the lives of targeted ethnic groups by strengthening institutional policies and support mechanisms that facilitate and encourage a needs-based development response at the community level.

The implementation of the Programme will significantly contribute to the empowerment of ethnic minorities to share the development results from and fully access the opportunities and benefits of China’s overall development. At the same time, it will contribute to the preservation of the diverse cultures of ethnic minorities and their living environment, raising awareness of the communities and the public on the value of ethnic cultures and strengthening national solidarity and social stability.

In doing so, the programme works to promote cultural diversity, gender equality and the respect of ethnic minorities’ cultural, social and economic rights.


The Programme has helped to develop and strengthen leadership management and the coordination of need-based poverty reduction, from provincial to county level, supported targeted poverty alleviation interventions from county to community level, and assisted in strengthening institutions through training on business management, rural tourism and cultural industries that focus on poverty reduction and the development of local cultural and natural assets. Institutional support and capacity development has also been reinforced through demonstrations of community interventions.

Building on past achievements in this area, UNDP announced a four-year partnership with leading Chinese cosmetic company Jala Group, in 2011, to promote synergies between the traditional cultural production of ethnic minorities and modern market development. This new partnership aims to improve brand recognition for traditional ethnic minority handicrafts, broaden marketing channels and business links, and bring ethnic minority communities and their products unprecedented opportunities to connect with China's dynamic private sector. UNDP also established a three-year partnership with Mary Kay and China Women’s Development Foundation in 2012, to empower ethnic minority women through culture-based development.

Who finances it?

Donor Amount
UNDP 2,000,000 USD
Third Party
1,750,000 USD

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